by, Christine Nappi & Nicole Fitzsimmons, Features Editor & News Editor
Get your passports ready– the office of Study Abroad is planning to resume programs this summer with accordance to the conditions of the pandemic, which will permit it’s continuation.
After stopping the program midway through Spring 2020 and canceling plans for a Fall 2020 and winter intersession program due to worsening conditions, study abroad is set to commence with opportunities in Mexico, France, the Bahamas, Spain, Italy and Portugal.
The Director of Study Abroad, Ricardo A. Dello Buono, Ph.D, is hopeful that these programs will happen and ensures that the office of study abroad is following proper safety precautions.
“We’re carefully monitoring a whole panorama of conditions: travel restrictions, visa issuance, conditions on the ground, availability of museums, restaurants, etc,” Dello Buono said. “We think that [the programs] will run, with improving conditions, but of course we won’t hesitate to cancel them if we feel it’s unsafe to run.”
Study abroad programs typically consist of long-term and short-term options, where students can stay in various countries for a whole semester or as little as two to five weeks during the winter and summer. Dello Buono finds studying abroad to be a critical learning opportunity and a way for students to build their resume and stand out from others. However, students haven’t been able to take advantage of these opportunities recently–something the office of study abroad is determined to change.
“We’re doing everything possible to make study abroad available,” Dello Bueno said. “We are operating on a, we’re- not-going-to-take-risks scenario so, we’re carefully monitoring the situation [and] we’re getting positioned to take advantage of that opening, as the situation improves, [because] it will be the ideal time to travel.”
In order to give students the opportunity to study abroad, the office has implemented a number of precautions. However, as Dello Buono describes, if it’s not safe to travel the program will be cancelled. These safety precautions include researching the restrictions of the destination countries, looking at the testing requirements of other countries, mandating the wearing of masks even if the country itself does not require it, encouraging students to get vaccinated and following the CDC and World Health Organization guidelines.
Erinn Kehoe, the assistant director of study abroad, finds that some of the restrictions and safety precautions could alter or potentially impact the study abroad experience, which is something the office is taking into consideration when planning these programs. As she notes, small restrictions such as limits on indoor dining, classroom size or subway travel can impact the program’s plans. Kehoe also ensures that the office is researching what international partners would be able to assist Manhattan College if the pandemic took a turn for the worse while students and faculty were abroad.
“Small things like that really do impact our ability to operate a program abroad, because we rely on our students being able to eat in restaurants, we rely on our groups being able to travel by subway,” Kehoe said. “Do we have the support of a partner abroad who can help us implement, should there be an emergency situation, help our group safely shelter in place or safely evacuate back to the United States as the case may be.”
Although the study abroad program has its doubts and is unsure what will happen next with the pandemic, they are optimistic that conditions will improve and they are actively recruiting students to sign up for the program. Dello Buono finds that as more people get vaccinated, the positivity rates will decrease making this opportunity safer.
In addition to this optimism, the office also finds there to be a high demand to study abroad. Whether it be students who are eager to get out of quarantine and explore, or upperclassmen who have minimal opportunities left to go abroad, the program has many interested students in going abroad.
“All signs seem to indicate, on the one hand, that demand is very high, because we had demand for students wanting to study abroad the last cycle, where we had to cancel,” Dello Buono said. “I think that it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of desire to study abroad [and] we’re doing everything possible to make that happen.”
One student looking to go abroad is junior communication major Jana Clark. Clark, originally from Europe, has dreamt of studying abroad for years and is planning to go to Rome this summer with the college. Although unsure of what the pandemic will bring, she is hopeful that the program will commence and that the college will keep her safe.
“When I saw the summer trips being advertised, I wanted to jump at the opportunity of attending the trip in hopes that it would not get cancelled again,” Clark said.“Like anyone would be, of course I am concerned about the real and dangerous threat of the pandemic in Italy. Flying on a plane and traveling around does not sound like the best idea, but I feel confident that as more people are getting vaccinated and the school is keeping eye on the situation abroad, this trip will hopefully take place. The Office of Study Abroad has done a great job of keeping applicants in the loop about the state of the pandemic in our destination country as well as social distancing measures and other regulations that will be upheld in order to ensure our safety.”
Another student looking to go abroad is senior philosophy major Aubrey Lefkowitz. Lefkowitz was planning to study abroad in Athens last fall through The American Institute of Foreign Study, a program that Manhattan College referred her to. Pandemic permitting, Lefkowitz will be going to Athens this fall. She is eager to study abroad, even amid the pandemic, because as a senior, she finds that she is running out of opportunities.
“If I’m being completely honest it’s really only because I’m graduating, like this is kind of my last chance,” Lefkowtiz said. “But I think this goes without saying like if I had to choose, would I have rather done it earlier– Yeah. I think it would have been way better without the threat of the pandemic kind of looming over it.”
Despite the pandemic, Lefkowitz encourages students to sign up for study abroad this summer and fall, because they may regret it if they don’t.
“If I let something like [the pandemic] stop me from [going abroad], I would definitely regret it,” Lefkowitz said. “You know you’re only really upperclassmen in college once. So, I’m just all about seizing those opportunities now [and] not letting things slip away from you.”
The office of study abroad is employing the same mentality that Lefkowitz is, and encourages students to get their passport ready and prepare to go abroad. However, they also encourage students to make plans to stay at MC if the trips are to get cancelled. As Dello Buono and Kehoe describe, students may as well plan to go abroad because if the trip is on they will have a guaranteed spot, and if it gets cancelled they will be fully refunded. Regardless of the circumstances, they encourage students to come talk to them for more information.
Despite the concerns about the precautions being put in place that could potentially limit the study abroad experience, Kehoe finds that the nature of the program won’t change– pandemic or not.
“The way that we’re implementing these policies for our study abroad programs is very similar in that there will be an impact, but that the kind of heart of the experience, the why do we study abroad– it’s to go and experience these different cultures, different places different histories different languages for ourselves,” Kehoe said. “That will still very much be available to the participants.”